Biden Nominates Professor Saule Omarova as Comptroller of the Currency

Sep 27, 2021Banks & Credit Unions, Federal Regulation, News

President Joe Biden has nominated law professor Saule Omarova, who currently teaches at Cornell University, to run the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first woman and person of color to serve as Comptroller.

According to the biography included in the White House’s news release, “Professor Omarova’s scholarly work focuses on the regulation of financial institutions and markets, banking law, and political economy of finance. She is one of the country’s leading academic experts on issues related to regulation of systemic risk and structural trends in financial markets.”

“I am deeply honored to be nominated for this role in President Biden’s administration,” Omarova said in a statement to the New York Times. “If confirmed, I will work hard to make sure that our banks remain stable, strong, and serve the needs of the American people.”

In the past, Omarova has criticized cryptocurrencies in the banking system as “benefiting mainly the dysfunctional financial system we already have,” according to Bloomberg.  She has also asserted that cryptocurrencies threaten to destabilize the economy and that they are susceptible to abuse by private firms at the expense of public safeguards.

In addition, she has advocated for the government to play a larger role in the banking system.” In an academic paper last year on How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy, she also advocated to “effectively end banking as we know it.”

American Banker noted that the OCC currently supervises some of the biggest lenders in the U.S., including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Omarova is expected to enforce stricter rules and oversight, and could pursue more radical positions like moving consumer banking from private institutions to the Federal Reserve.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, applauded the nomination.

“Saule Omarova has spent her career working with both Republicans and Democrats on systemic financial stability issues and is well-versed in new financial technologies,” Brown said. “Her experience as a policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia will allow her to work with stakeholders across our financial system to ensure the economy works for everyone, and to protect our economic recovery from the risky activities of Wall Street and other bad actors.”

However, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Ranking Member of the Committee, expressed “serious reservations” about her nomination.

“Ms. Omarova has called for ‘radically reshaping the basic architecture and dynamics of modern finance’ including nationalizing retail banking and having the Federal Reserve allocate credit,” Toomey said.

She could face a tough fight for confirmation, especially as banks may aggressively lobby against her candidacy.

Michael Hsu, a former Fed official, has been the acting head of the OCC since May.

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